Cannoli Cupcake Recipe

Cannoli are one of those delicious Italian desserts that you don't necessarily think about making at home. There's no rule that says you can't, of course, but cannoli just seem a bit more intimidating to whip up than cupcakes, cookies, or bowl of ice cream. That's where this creative recipe for cannoli cupcakes comes in, offering the perfect balance between the famous flavors of the Italian pastry shop favorite and techniques most familiar to American home bakers.

"Cannoli are one of my favorite desserts in general. My grandmother used to make homemade ones all the time, so I grew up eating them," says recipe developer Jessica Morone. "I love using the flavors of one dessert in a totally different way, and these cupcakes really do that: They have big cannoli flavors in cute cupcake form." That "big cannoli flavor" is largely thanks to the fact that these cupcakes are actually filled with traditional cannoli cream, a surprise that makes them a particularly fun treat. "Anyone who likes cannoli will like these, whether they are adults or children. I think these would be a great dessert for any party or event," Morone says. 

Gather the ingredients for cannoli cupcakes

You're making 3 separate elements for this recipe: the cupcakes themselves, the cannoli cream filling, and the ricotta buttercream — so you need quite a few ingredients. That said, they're all readily available in standard grocery stores (and quite a few of them are likely in your kitchen). Gather up some all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, fine sea salt, granulated sugar, butter, buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, whole milk ricotta cheese, heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, a lemon (for the zest), and mini chocolate chips. 

Of all the ingredients, it's the buttermilk that helps the cupcakes taste especially good. "Putting buttermilk in cupcake recipes makes them much lighter and fluffier than recipes without it. These cupcakes are super tender because of it," says Morone.

Prep your cupcake pan and mix the dry ingredients

The first steps of this recipe will be familiar to anyone who's made cupcakes before. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a cupcake pan with liners before setting it aside. You're also going to need a chilled bowl when it comes time to make the cannoli cream, so pop a medium-sized bowl in the fridge to chill. Next, mix the dry ingredients, including the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon together in a medium-sized bowl. 

Combine the wet ingredients

Melt ½ cup of the butter before adding it to a large bowl with the granulated sugar, buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Keep in mind that it's important to measure the ½ cup of butter before you melt it, not after, as the butter might lose a small amount of volume as it melts. It won't be much, mind you, but because baking is a precise science, it's important to take every precaution to get the weights and measurements perfect. 

Mix the wet and dry ingredients to form the cupcake batter

Take the bowl of dry ingredients and slowly start pouring it into the wet ingredients. Whisk as you pour, stopping when the ingredients have been well combined. Try not to overmix, as this can make the cupcakes overly chewy.

Fill the cupcake pan and bake the cupcakes

Use an ice cream scoop or small measuring cup to spoon the batter into the waiting cupcake pan. The wells should each end up being about ⅔ of the way full. 

Pop the pan in the hot oven and bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes. Pull the pan out and use a toothpick to determine their "doneness;" simply stick the toothpick in the center of a cupcake to see if it comes out clean. If there are no crumbs attached when you remove it, the cupcakes are ready to cool. Set them aside.

Drain the ricotta cheese

Before making the cannoli cream filling or ricotta buttercream, you need to prep the key ingredient. Simply place the ricotta in a fine mesh strainer or sieve balanced over a bowl, and allow the cheese to drain off its extra liquid for at least half an hour. "You can definitely drain the ricotta in advance," Morone says. "For example, you could place the bowl and strainer with the ricotta in it in the fridge overnight. You want to strain it for at least 30 minutes, but really you can do up to 8 hours and it will get even more liquid out."

Mix the cannoli cream filling

Once the ricotta is done draining, grab the empty bowl you have chilling in the fridge and pour in the heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat the cream at a high speed until stiff peaks form, then add ¼ cup powdered sugar and continue beating until combined. 

In a different bowl, combine 1 cup ricotta, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, the lemon zest, and the remaining cinnamon. Carefully fold in the fresh whipped cream and chocolate chips. 

Fill the cupcakes with cannoli cream

Grab your now-cooled cupcakes and use a spoon or a cupcake corer (yes, there really are such tools) to create a well in each cupcake that's roughly 1-inch deep. Completely fill each cupcake well with the cannoli cream using a spoon or a piping bag. 

This cream makes a delicious cupcake filling, but don't try to use it as the frosting. "The cannoli cream that is piped into the cupcakes is a traditional cannoli cream recipe that you would find in any cannoli. It's really delicious, but it wouldn't make a very good frosting because it is a bit looser than the ricotta buttercream," Morone explains. 

Make the ricotta buttercream frosting

All that's left to make is the ricotta buttercream frosting. Add the remaining butter (make sure it's softened, but not melted), and ⅓ cup ricotta to a large bowl. Use your electric mixer to beat them together on high speed until fluffy. Pour in the remaining powdered sugar and another teaspoon of vanilla extract, continuing to beat until the frosting is smooth. 

Unlike the cannoli cream, which is straight out of the classic cannoli playbook, the ricotta-spiked frosting comes together per cupcake tradition and makes these treats extra decadent.

Frost the cupcakes, garnish, and serve

Use a piping bag to pipe the frosting onto each of the waiting cupcakes. Add a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips on top for an extra nod to classic cannoli, if desired, then feel free to dig right in! 

"Because of the cannoli cream and frosting, you will want to store any leftovers in the fridge," says Morone. "They will keep pretty well in an airtight container for up to 3 days." 

Cannoli Cupcake Recipe
5 from 58 ratings
These cupcakes have sweetened ricotta inside and out, making them incredibly reminiscent of your favorite Sicilian cannoli.
Prep Time
50
minutes
Cook Time
20
minutes
Servings
12
cupcakes
filled frosted cannoli cupcakes
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 cup softened butter, divided
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 ⅓ cups whole milk ricotta, divided
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 ¼ cups powdered sugar, divided
  • ½ tablespoon lemon zest
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for garnish
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, line a 12-count muffin pan with muffin liners, and place a medium or large bowl in the fridge to chill.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Melt ½ cup of the butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, granulated sugar, buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until combined, being careful not to overmix.
  5. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin pan, filling each well about ⅔ full. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely.
  6. Meanwhile, place the ricotta in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and let drain for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Make the cannoli cream filling. Add the heavy cream to the chilled empty bowl and beat at a high speed until stiff peaks form. Add in ¼ cup powdered sugar and beat until combined.
  8. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup drained ricotta, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, lemon zest, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Gently fold in the whipped cream and chocolate chips until combined.
  9. Use a spoon or cupcake corer to cut out a circle in the center of each cooled cupcake, about 1 inch deep. Spoon or pipe the cannoli cream into each cupcake until each hole is filled with cream.
  10. To make the ricotta buttercream frosting, add the remaining ½ cup softened butter and ⅓ cup ricotta to a large bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer until combined and fluffy.
  11. Add in the remaining 4 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat on low until the frosting is smooth.
  12. Pipe frosting onto each of the filled cupcakes. Top with some additional mini chocolate chips, if desired, and serve.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 547
Total Fat 26.6 g
Saturated Fat 13.8 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 87.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 73.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Total Sugars 57.9 g
Sodium 179.7 mg
Protein 5.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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